Friday, November 16, 2007

Dr. Cem Kaner on Software Testing as a Career

I take this opportunity to share few on great discussions happening at "software-testing" Yahoo group, to all my blog readers. For the purpose of focus, I am not sharing the entire thread and the beauty of the reply is such that you can read this without knowing or referring the original post that initiated this discussion....

There were actually two replies by Dr Kaner - I am taking the liberty of rearranging few paragraphs from both replies in order to givea specific flow to the whole thing. The purpose of this post is to share the words of wisdom and experience for all those who would like pursue the career in “Software Testing

[Dr Kaner: Quote]

Let me start by distinguishing between a CAREER and a JOB. A CAREER involves a long-term, intentional focus on a field or type of work. A JOB is a temporary assignment with a particular employer. My career is focused on improving the satisfaction and safety of software users and developers. My current job is as a professor. I have also held jobs as a tester, test manager, programmer, human factors analyst, software development manager, technical publications manager, development director, organization development consultant, salesperson, software development consultant, and attorney focused on the law of software quality. Each of these has addressed different aspects of what has been, to me, the same career. People define their own careers. Many people define their career in terms of traditional categories (programmer, tester, lawyer, teacher), but the choice belongs to the person, not the category.

When you make a choice ("I am an X" or "My career is X"), that choice is both inclusive (Xness is in your path) and exclusive (if Yness is not part of Xness, and Xness is not part of Yness, then "I am X" means also "I am not Y"). When someone defines their career as "tester," I think that definition is too narrow.

I see software development as a bundle of coordinated tasks, including programming, design, testing, usability evaluation, modeling, documentation, development of associated training, project management, etc. Very few people would do all of these as part of the same job. Fewer would do them all on the same project or in the same week. But working at one company as a tester and another company later as a programmer is not inconsistent with calling myself a software developer at either/both companies

I don't generally encourage my students to pursue software testing AS A CAREER. They can make that decision later, after they have more experience. I prefer to encourage them to try SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT as a career -- to me, development includes testing. And that they take a job doing serious, skilled testing as PART of that career. Most of the best testers I know have significant experience outside of testing and apply that experience to what they do as testers or test managers.

I think that testing is a fine choice for a first job--for some people--but that doesn't make it a first career. It becomes a first career only for the person who says, "This, testing, is my career." I don't recommend that people make a decision to narrow their career that much, early in their career. Let them explore the field more, in their next few jobs, before they lock themselves into something.

I think that some people are good at both programming and testing, some people are good at both writing and testing, some people are good at design and testing, very few people are good at every software development task. So I think it is inappropriate to say that someone shouldn't be considered a software developer because they are good at some aspects of development but not others. Most (all?) of the hidebound process-pushers that I know in the field have never done serious professional work outside of testing. From their narrow perspective, they think they know more about how to manage a development project than the people who retain their testing services. Instead of trying out their ideas as project managers (where they will be accountable if they fail) these process advocates undermine the projects they work on by trying to control things they don't understand with rigid policies and procedures, standards and superstitions, whose costs and impacts are beyond their imagination. We have too many of these people in our field. We need more people who have a broader view of the tremendous value that testing can offer--within its limited role--and are glad to embrace a service-provider role that provides that value.

I think some fresh engineers should start their career with a job in programming, others with testing, others writing, others with human factors assessment, others with configuration management, others with data analysis. I think that choice should depend on what motivates the particular person.

What makes testing worth spending time on--as a job and maybe as a career?

We are professional investigators. Rather than building things, we find ways to answer difficult questions about the quality of the products or services we test. Our job--if we choose to do it well--requires us to constantly learn new things, about the product, its market, its implementation, its risks, its usability, etc. To learn these, we are constantly developing new skills and new cognitive structures in a diversity of fields. It also requires us to communicate well to a diverse group of people. We ALSO get to build things (test tools), but very often, we build to our own designs, which can be more satisfying than building an application that does something we'll never personally do (or want to do). Learning to do good software testing requires learning to do critical thinking well, and to back it up with empirical research. Not everyone will like to do testing. Not every engineer or programmer will have the skills or the interest to do professional-level testing. But for those of us who enjoy critical thinking, experimentation, and keeping the human relevance of what we do always in mind, there is nothing else like it in software development (except, for some people on some projects, requirements analysis backed with rapid prototyping and prototype-based research).

[Dr Kaner: Unquote]



amagazine said...

Hi Shrini,
Thanks for sharing this. It is quite insightful. This definitely provide a great perspective on Job and Career.


MacroTesting said...

Very good article, i really like it. I am doing a bit on research about software testing and i found also macrotesting to be very good source.

Thanks for your article